MAX Whitlock received a hero’s welcome last night as he returned to his home gym in Basildon .
The double Olympic bronze medallist gymnast was greeted by fans and media at the Sporting Village before being whisked away for a surprise party at the Holiday Inn at the Festival Leisure Park .
The 19-year-old said he was still struggling to come to terms with his new-found fame, but admitted he was enjoying every minute of it.
“It is strange for me, but in the Olympic Village I started to get used to people coming up to me, and also getting nice comments on Twitter and people saying ‘well done’.
“But last night it was so weird; I got home and me and my brother Ben went to Sainsbury’s and there were quite a few people there who knew who I was.
“I had my photograph taken with a few of them and the woman behind the counter just really did not know what to do with herself as she served us. It was really funny and really nice, too.”
There was a cut-away camera shot to Whitlock and his fellow GB gymnasts on their now familiar scooters during the BBC’s live coverage of the London 2012 closing ceremony on Sunday.
And Whitlock revealed the story behind their interesting choice of urban transport.
“The Olympic Village is pretty big so we decided to go to Westfield’s to buy a scooter and we found these ones in John Lewis,” he said.
“I’ve become quite attached to mine now and it was great that they did a shot of us with them at the closing ceremony.”
Whitlock was a bit disappointed he did not get a chance to meet Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt, but said it was “really cool” to meet Britain’s double-gold medalist distance runner, Mo Farah. And now the teenager, who’s been commuting from his home in Hemel Hempstead to Basildon for six days of training every week for the past year, says he’s now looking forward to a well-earned rest.
He said: “After the competition we had a week in the Olympic Village to chill, and that was good.
“So I’ve had a week off gym but I’ll probably go in and just muck about and catch up with a few people this week before I rest properly. “I’ve got a holiday to Turkey coming up and I’m really looking forward to that. And when I come back I’ll talk to Scott (Hann, his coach), and we’ll start to think about the future.”